November 30, 2022

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Whatu Creative founder Awhina Murupaenga (left) with Northland Inc growth adviser Emma Rankin. Photo / Supplied
OPINION

Why do people start businesses, and what’s a sure-fire recipe for success? Business ideas can come from a passion for doing something, a desire to see an ancient craft revitalised or sometimes from outside restrictions such as those experienced with Covid-19.
Sometimes, all of these factors can come together to produce something that captures people, identifies a gap in the market and forces you to move beyond your original thinking.
All of this occurred for Awhina Murupaenga and her Taitokerau Northland business, Whatu Creative.
Awhina’s business started from a passion for revitalising mahi toi and an effort to grow mātauranga Māori and te teo Māori within her community, as well as through her role at Te Whare Whiri Toi Art Gallery in Ahipara.
She had initially planned for her business, Whatu Creative, to deliver events to give local people opportunities to build on their creative abilities and to support the retention of traditional Māori practices.
Then Covid-19 struck, and the resulting restrictions meant she had to quickly pivot in order for the business to survive.
So, instead of delivering focused in-person events, she switched to selling the mahi toi kits she had put together as a DIY craft kit instead.
From a post on Instagram with a basic Google form for orders, she sold out of her kits in an hour.
From that first foray into simple online selling, Awhina had the market validation she needed to pursue her idea with passion. Awhina came to her Northland Inc growth adviser looking to build on this success and to backfill some of the business capability she felt she didn’t have.
In this case, it was access to services providing business planning assistance through a local accountant that Awhina needed, but there is a range of service providers and support available to businesses across the rohe.
Awhina now has her sights set on growing and expanding her business into overseas markets. She also has the goal to show rangatahi Māori they can set and achieve their goals from within their community, drawing on their own skills and passions.
If an idea is good enough and you’ve tested it within your community, the sky can be the limit.
Through my role as a growth adviser at Northland Inc, there are several reasons Whatu Creative has grown to be a successful business despite trying times.
Awhina’s business is a great example of starting where you are, seeing an opportunity and adapting quickly to fulfil that need. The speed at which she was able to get her mahi toi kits to market, test the concept and then scale up meant she didn’t let the opportunity for growth pass her by, or get snapped up by a competitor.
Through her engagement with Northland Inc she was able to find support to help her remove any barriers to growth, enabling her to keep her aspirations for the business high and look towards growing the market internationally.
Every day our growth advisers within the business growth and innovation team at Northland Inc are seeing a groundswell of new businesses. People with a great idea whose time has come, people who have decided to strike out on their own, and people who have identified a gap in the market.
Our job is to work with these businesses, give them a sounding board and help them identify the key barriers to growth. From there we connect them to high-quality support, services, information and resources across all industries and sectors.
The business innovation and growth team at Northland Inc is available for confidential advice, resources, and information to support your business. Please connect with your growth adviser via growth@northlandnz.com.
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